Review Summary: A combination of Korean folk instrumentation with noisy density, Jambinai's A Hermitage is a hypnotic post-rock joy.
While post-rock’s legacy is rooted in the West, it would be ignorant to suggest that the appeal has been localized only in the States or Europe. The defining characteristics of the genre have allure; dense percussion and spiraling guitars hypnotically channel the introspective side of rock. It’s when these sounds start merging with otherwise incompatible genres that you truly start to see the genre’s potential in action. South Korea’s Jambinai ambitiously mix post-rock guitar noise with traditional instruments from their homeland, instruments that create sounds you might not expect to hear alongside torrential rhythm blasts or distortion-laden guitar walls. Dabbling in the aesthetics of folk and free jazz, in addition to post-rock and post-metal, Jambinai released the LP A Hermitage
. Not only have this trio made an amazing LP, rich with diversity and moodiness, but they’ve outclassed many of their Western peers in the post-rock scene with this fresh, mesmerizing album.
Jambinai take much of the experimental elements of post-rock and post-metal and add a fresh flavor to it in the form of traditional instruments from their home of South Korea. Layered with the noisy feedback and distortion, expect to hear music from the geomungo (a zither-like instrument used by member Eun Youg Sim), a haegum (a fiddle-like instrument used by member Bomi Kim) and a piri (a thinly squawking reed flute, used by frontman/guitarist Ilwoo Lee). The use of these unorthodox instruments manages to grab many elements from multiple aesthetics. Opener “Wardrobe” goes from the loud density of hardcore, while on “For Everything That You Lost”, things settle for more passive, ambient soundscapes. In the case of “The Mountain”, it’s both, as the serene plucking of the early portions of the song is pulled back for an explosive cacophony as the track closes. Jambinai prove that traditional Korean instruments are remarkably versatile, as their implementation throughout A Hermitage
is diverse, while still demonstrating virtuosity from the musicians themselves.
And while the group jumps between multiple moods and flows on A Hermitage
, they keep much of their fullness intact. Some of the best moments on the record are full of brooding riffs or thick post-metal spirals. Opener “Wardrobe” has a stomping rhythm and grimy guitar riffs, while frontman Lee screams with distortion atop his voice, hearkening back to Around the Fur
-era Deftones. The tumultuous noise of “Deus Benedicat Tibi” is free jazz with an Eastern twist, a maelstrom atop thundering percussion. Closer “They Keep Silence” is one of the best tracks on the record, thanks to Lee’s psalmic hums and a repeated move to an abrasive roar through its six-and-a-half-minute length. For a record with so many new sounds, A Hermitage
still produces a sense of aggression, one that will certainly entertain fans of the monolithic instrumentation of post-rock.
has a few missteps, though. “Abyss” sticks out like a sore thumb, as the rapping from guest vocalist Ignito doesn’t gel with any of the moods developed by Jambinai on the entire record. While Ignito isn’t a bad vocalist, the way his verses are placed on “Abyss” is awkward and jarring. It’s difficult to see any sensibility when droning post-rock and sinewy strings are set alongside rapping. Jambinai also settle a bit too much near the middle of the record, which is a pretty rough decision when you’re making this kind of post-rock/post-metal music. The album has a good deal of dynamics; many peaks and valleys are on display, though more explosive left-turns like “Wardrobe” could’ve kept the middle of the album from feeling too settled.
is a mastery of the best elements of post-rock, which Jambinai are already proficient at, but it’s the use of the traditional Korean instruments that makes the ambition breathe. It’s amazing just how much can be done with instruments like the geomungo or piri. The moods, tempos, and soundscapes feel alien, but natural, rich, but intimidating. This comes with song composition packed with density; noisy guitar distortion alongside thin crowing and screeching strings from Kim and Youg Sim. Jambinai cultivate unexplored sounds to the post-rock scene, while still retaining the jagged majesty of the genre’s core principles. When it comes to producing diversity and nuance, while still retaining the tradition of noisy experimentalism, Jambinai have outclassed many Western acts of this field, and have delivered one hell of a record in A Hermitage